Halloween and Trick-or-Treating

CY: So, like I say, it’s Halloween, right, and we’re lucky Louie doesn’t have razor wire around his yard, you know how he is. So finally one of the neighborhood kids, he gets all courageous and he goes sauntering up to the door and he goes ‘trick or treat!’.

Halloween is a contraction of All Hallows Evening, the night before All Hallows Day, which is November 1 (so Halloween is October 31). Alluded to several times already in the show as an important date on the calendar, it is a day for remembering the dead with a Christian name but with probable pagan roots.

Halloween customs were brought to North America in the 19th century by Scottish and Irish immigrants. In return, the American influence on Halloween has spread around the world in the 20th and 21st centuries.

Trick-or-treating is a Halloween tradition where children dress in costumes and travel from house to house, asking for treats, with the phrase, “Trick or treat?”. The “trick” is a threat, usually idle, to commit some small act of mischief on the homeowner should no treat be provided.

The custom goes back to at least the 16th century in Scotland and Ireland, where it was called guising. In America, trick-or-treating has been a tradition since the 1920s; the earliest known example is from Canada in 1911.

It is apt that one of the last things that happen in this episode is a memory shared of Louie’s behaviour on Halloween, since it is day for the remembrance and honour given to the dead.

Arbor Day

RORY: See you for some tree planting over at the Arbor Day Festival, buddy.

Arbor Day is an international secular day of observance in which groups and individuals are encouraged to plant trees. It is usually held in the spring. In the US, Arbor Day was founded in 1872 by J. Sterling Morton in Nebraska City. By the 1920s, every state in the US had laws stipulating that Arbor Day had to be observed.

In the US, National Arbor Day is celebrated on the last Friday in April, so it is two weeks away from this episode, and Rory is anticipating another event she might be able to get Jess to attend. We never see an Arbor Day celebration in Stars Hollow, but of course they hold one every year. By the time Arbor Day arrives, Jess has left town.

Santa Claus

JESS: Actually, I came down the chimney and pulled a Santa Claus.

Jess refers to Santa Claus delivering gifts by coming down the chimney, a common tradition in many European countries. It probably pre-dates Christianity, as in Germanic legend, the Norse god Odin was said to bring gifts down the chimney at Yuletide, and in folklore elves and fairies brought gifts down the chimney to leave on the hearth. The fireside and hearth has been held sacred since ancient times, probably since humans began using fire.

Santa Claus coming down the chimney became part of American tradition upon the publication of the 1823 poem, A Visit from St. Nicholas, by Clement Clarke Moore, which begins, “’Twas the night before Christmas …”. Enormously popular, it had a massive effect on Christmas traditions in the US, many of which can be dated to the publication of the poem.

Jess is quick to counter Lorelai’s suggestion that he broke into their house to steal the bracelet by instead aligning himself with a benevolent figure who actually brings gifts, rather than steals them. Jess does the right thing in returning the bracelet as soon as he can, but gets nothing but grief for it.

EDIT: Edited to change a Jeff to a Jess, thank you to Carol Stamm for help in my battle with autocorrect. Otherwise we’d all be reading about Laurel Gilmore and her daughter Dory, in the little town of Tars Hello.

Labor Day, Memorial Day, Hanukkah

RORY: And we can split up holidays evenly. Like, I’ll be with you on Labor Day…
RORY: … her on Memorial Day.
LORELAI: Enough.
RORY: I’ll have to find out about her religion though to see how Hanukkah will factor into this, unless you want to convert to Judaism and then take over Hanukkah for yourself.

Labor Day: a federal holiday in the US celebrated on the first Monday in September to honour the trade union and labour movement, first made official in 1894. Culturally, it is the unofficial last day of summer.

Memorial Day: previously discussed.

Hanukkah [pictured]: a Jewish festival, also known as The Festival of Lights, commemorating the recovery of Jerusalem and re-dedication of the Temple during the second century BC. It is observed for eight days and eight nights, and festivities include lighting candles, singing songs, and eating fried foods such as potato cakes and doughnuts. Although a minor festival, it has taken on great cultural significance in the US and elsewhere, as it takes place around the same time as Christmas.

Fourth of July

RORY: I’m jumpy. On the Fourth of July, forget it, I’m a wreck. And when the Stars Hollow orchestra begins to play in the gazebo, the guy banging the cymbals, I’m . . . it drives me nuts.

Fourth of July is the date of Independence Day, and often used colloquially as its name. It’s a federal holiday in the US, commemorating the signing of the Declaration of Independence from Britain on July 4th 1776. A day of patriotic display, music, fireworks, and mid-summer picnics and barbecues.

We never get to see the Fourth of July in Stars Hollow, but of course they would have the same sort of celebrations as elsewhere. Presumably it is the fireworks which make her “jumpy”. Rory tells us that there is a town orchestra who plays in the gazebo on this date – which means the orchestra must be small, that they all fit in the gazebo.

Memorial Day

RORY: Hey, how’s Diane?
CHRISTOPHER: Uh, Diane is ancient history.
RORY: When I met her at Easter you said she could be the one.
CHRISTOPHER: The one to be gone by Memorial Day.

Memorial Day is a public holiday in the United States to remember those who have died while serving in the armed forces. It’s observed on the last Monday of May, which in 2000 was May 29. It is commemorated with military parades, and by decorating the graves of fallen soldiers with American flags. Memorial Day is considered the unofficial start of summer.

Christopher brought his girlfriend Diane to meet Rory at Easter in 2000, which would have been April 23, telling her that the relationship was serious and possibly permanent. About a month later, the relationship with Diane was over, yet he doesn’t bother telling Rory that until March 2001.

There’s been almost of year of phone calls from Christopher, yet he hasn’t thought to fill Rory in on a significant event in his life such as breaking up with a supposedly serious girlfriend he was thinking of marrying.

The writer (Daniel Palladino for this episode) is keen to drum it in that Christopher is an inattentive father, but it also means that Rory and Lorelai haven’t bothered asking him how Diane is in all that time either – even after she didn’t turn up to Christmas with him (unless Christopher kept fobbing them off with evasive answers).


Thanksgiving is a public holiday in the United States celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November – in 2000, Thanksgiving was on November 23. Originating as a harvest festival, it has been celebrated nationally since 1793, and was declared a federal holiday in 1863.

It is clear that the Autumn Festival celebrates the lead up to Thanksgiving. Interestingly, the word “Thanksgiving” is never mentioned in the episode, yet it is obvious that it is the theme of the festival from context. Notice how often the words “thank you” are used in this episode – Rory even thanks Dean for giving her a kiss!

Especially in the early part of the episode, many of the symbols of Thanksgiving are in evidence or discussed.

Autumn leaves: suitable decorations for the season of the year.

Pilgrims: Americans trace the First Thanksgiving to a 1621 celebration in Plymouth (now in Massachusetts). The Pilgrims, who were English Dissenters, were given help by the local Native American people in catching and growing food, and added to their stores when supplies were low. The Pilgrims invited the local people to their harvest supper, which lasted for days and was held somewhere between late September and early November.

Indians: Lorelai tells Rory to save her apologies for the Indians, referring to the devastating effects of European settlement on the Native American population and culture. Because of it, Native Americans of New England have held a National Day of Mourning as a protest on Thanksgiving since 1970.

Turkey: This poultry native to the Americas plays a central role in Thanksgiving dinner, usually served roasted and stuffed. It is said to be one of the foods served at the semi-legendary First Thanksgiving, making it a traditional choice (they also ate a ton of eel, cod, and venison, but nobody cares much about that).

Pumpkin: A food native to the Americas in season in autumn, and a symbol of the harvest. Pumpkin pie is a traditional dessert for Thanksgiving dinner (which sounds wrong as a sweet, but tastes really nice).

Squash: Like pumpkin, autumn squash are native to the Americas and ripe for the season, making them a natural choice for Thanksgiving dinner.

Horn of plenty: Also known as a cornucopia, this has been a symbol of prosperity and abundance from classic times, and has long been connected with the harvest season. In the US, this has made it a natural fit as a Thanksgiving symbol, and is often a decorative wicker basket filled with fruits and vegetables.

Canned goods drive: Donating canned goods to the less fortunate in a common charitable cause at Thanksgiving. In Stars Hollow, the collection point for the canned food drive is actually called the Horn of Plenty. Rory and Lane both volunteer to work at the Stars Hollow canned goods drive, for which they dress in Pilgrim costumes, with an Autumn Festival badge

The “Mayflower” and Plymouth Rock: Taylor and Dean attempt to make a display of canned soup look like either the Mayflower, or when that fails, Plymouth Rock. The Mayflower was the ship on which the Pilgrims arrived in the New World in November 1620, and Plymouth Rock in Plymouth Harbor was traditionally where they disembarked. Both are items of great veneration.